The Character of the Male in a Society of Ignorance
The false customs of a society of ignorance also have their influence on the perception of the role of male. Although a definition of this identity is not written, nearly every member of the society of ignorance knows its features well. Even before children are born into a family, the parents have already imagined how they will instill this character into a baby if it happens to be a boy. Above all, in such a society in which people abide by such a morality, having a male child brings a great deal of pride.
The foremost quality of a man, as far as they are concerned, is that he be of strong character and superior to women. These expectations lead of course to a stronger personality in a man than a woman.
Having a strong character is of course a good thing, but the concept of strength referred to in the society of the ignorant is a far cry from the strong character described in the Qur’an. Ruthlessness and strictness, far removed from affection and compassion, and even an understanding of superiority and strength that is rooted in violence is regarded as natural in the male character in the society of the ignorant. Other factors in the society help to support this notion of male superiority. Women in the society of ignorance usually adopt a defeatist character and regard themselves as second-class. In such a society, there is none superior to the male. This creates the idea that male self-sufficiency is absolute. For this reason, men are generally not open to suggestions and criticism from anyone else, particularly women.
In addition, every man feels he must conform to what the society expects of him, and so expends every effort not to depart from the mould he has been put into. In a society of ignorance, it is considered very humiliating for a man not to be able to do what is expected of him. He is expected to be strong and brave, from his childhood into old age, and may not show the slightest weakness, submission or anything else that does not accord with the male character. So, he is bound not to let his weakness be seen, even when he is sick or suffering for whatever reason. Because showing weakness is regarded as a feminine quality in a society of ignorance, it is not fitting for a man to appear helpless.
It must also be noted that the strength, bravery and other traits expected of a man in society are not negative characteristics; they are actually all good and positive. But, that which is valued as superior by a society that does not live according to the moral teachings of the Qur’an often becomes a matter for arrogance and pride. Allah warns people in the Qur’an against this vice:
Do not avert your face from people out of haughtiness and do not strut about arrogantly on the Earth. Allah does not love anyone who is vain or boastful. (Surat al-Luqman, 18)
For this reason, these qualities in ignorant men are not exercised towards positive ends, but become negative because of their tendency for arrogance. A type of character is produced who is certain of its own superiority, arrogant, and unwilling to respect the ideas of equals.
Various Examples Of The Male Character In A Society Of Ignorance
What we have said so far describes the aspects of the male character in a society of ignorance. There are many other types of male characters whose basic characteristics are formed by their families, their community, living conditions and other such factors. We could describe them briefly as follows:
Some men who have adopted for themselves a character opposite to the type mentioned in the last section are called “henpecked” in a society of ignorance. They do not have the kind of character expected by a society of ignorance, that is, a character that asserts its own superiority; but are overly submissive and unable to stand up for themselves. These individuals do not conform to the mould outlined for them according to the stereotype created by the society of ignorance. Instead of being assertive, they prefer to be dominated by others, and fail to display a strong personality. They are regarded as weak and having no personality.
Another kind of character to be seen in a society of ignorance is the “macho man.” These individuals believe that men are definitely superior, and women are definitely inferior. They regard women as men’s possessions, like any piece of merchandise, and decide when they will treat them well, and when they should treat them badly. They think that their boorish behavior, course manners and crude language make them appear “masculine.” They are convinced that it is someone like them that women want to marry, that their behavior makes them attractive.
In a society of ignorance, there is also a male character type called the “party animals.” Their favorite entertainment is hanging around in bars, drinking too much and carousing. They do the same thing almost every night, with their regular group of friends, who share the same erroneous outlook. The reason why they are called “party animals” in a society of ignorance is because they are always “partying.” During these festivities, which last late into the night, hardly one intelligent or significant topic is discussed. Under the influence of alcohol, men talk for hours about something that is totally inane, philosophizing about it, and offering one another lessons on life. Often, something will end an argument, at some point late in the evening, where those around them have difficulty controlling them and quieting them down. Such individuals will also reflect in their every-day life the aspects of the character type that they display in at night. Usually, they will ask for others not to bother them, putting forward the excuse that they are “hung-over,” or still under the influence of alcohol they consumed the night before.
What we have here described are only a few of the male character types to be found in a society of ignorance; there are hundreds of others. Because it is not founded on the Qur’an, a society of ignorance produces these kinds of character, all of which have a corrupted in understanding. When considered carefully however, we may recognize that men who live this kind of life cannot, in any real sense, find fulfillment in their lives.
The Character of Elderly Men
No matter what kind of character he adopts, when he becomes older, a man in an ignorant society settles into the standard set for him. But, before addressing this issue, we must first note one important point: The type of elderly man we will discuss in this section reflect the corruption that results from living a life distant from the morality of religion. We will see the corruption brought about in a man’s character by not living a life pleasing to Allah, by refusing to think in his later years about the life of the Hereafter, and by being overly attached to this world.
Of course, there are degrees of these features found in one person or another, and the defective morality that we are about to discuss may be evidenced only partly by some individuals and more entirely by others. Essentially, what is important for our topic is the moral degeneracy caused by being distant to the morality of the Qur’an.
Once a woman in an ignorant society will have married off her children, and acquired grandchildren, she will take on the character of an old woman. Also, when men retire or become too old to work, they will tend to stay at home. Even those men who feel physically and spiritually fit are influenced by the rest of the society to think that they must behave as older men do. Their wives have grown old, as have all their friends. Acquaintances have retired and behave as old men. Their children are married, and then grow farther and farther apart from their parents, because they have to deal with their own problems.
Such individuals often pass their days watching television or napping. For a housewife, of course, such behavior is merely a continuation of much of what she had been used to. Their grumbling and irrationality increase steadily. Although both husband and wife live together under the same conditions, the responsibilities for looking after the house still fall to the woman, which makes her behavior even more contrary. Because the men now have nothing to do, they become bored sitting in the house all day with nothing to occupy themselves.
They do the same things every day, their lives becoming dreadfully monotonous. They hope for their children to break this monotony who are immersed in their own lives. Occasionally, they visit their children on week-ends, but only stay for a few hours, which is not enough to rescue them from the tedium of their lives.
Sometimes, they visit friends, among whom the topic of conversation is usually limited to their children and their illnesses. They talk about the doctors they go to, the new treatments they are receiving and the medicines they take; and they give one another advice about health matters.
In spite of all the weakness and helplessness they encounter because of growing old, they maintain the kind of character and expectations that a society of ignorance has imposed on them and not ponder upon the Hereafter. They have lived in an ignorant society for years, and they see clearly that there is nothing to be gained, and no happiness to be had from it. The fact that they are still firmly attached to the world, even when death is so close, is a typical feature of the character of an elderly person who lives in a society removed from the morality of religion.
Also, these individuals are living in such an error that will cause them great harm. What they must do is turn to Allah, the Creator of all that exists. They may not have done this at an earlier age, but from the moment they realize that they will be called to account before Allah, and that their death is near approaching, they must advance awareness, and try to gain Allah’s pleasure by repenting of their past lives. The lives they have lived until then, apart from the morality of the Qur’an, their anxieties, illnesses and other problems, must become the means for them to take heed.
In general, however, in the kind of ignorant society we have been describing, the aged do not do so; on the contrary, they become more rebellious, and act as if they did not understand what was being said. Now, we will summarize the main features of the character of an older person.
They Are Easily Offended And Seek to Make Others Feel Sorry For Them
Most elderly people are materially and psychologically dependent on others, usually their children, grandchildren or other relatives. Those they depend on are often not too well disposed towards old people; they may be regarded as good people, but, they usually regard the elderly in their care as an annoying nuisance. Old people usually do not have the means or the ability to live on their own in a separate dwelling. But, their relatives do not want to take them into their own homes on a long-term basis because of the care they require.
In a society in which people do not abide by the morality of the religion this situation to which elderly people are subjected is a natural consequence of the false system they have conformed for years. These people, most of whom have grown old, have likewise adopted an errant morality and lived their lives removed from Allah and His religion. And, they raised their children and grandchildren to adopt the same moral outlook. Instead of instilling in them the nobler morality that Allah has commanded, they have taught them the morality of ignorance. As a result, this has returned to plague them in their later years. And their children, who live in a society of ignorance, will often abuse them or abandon them without blinking an eye. Or, if the children agree to have their parents stay with them, they may not treat them well because they have been forced to take them in.
The parents are aware of the way their children feel towards them, and this gives rise to one of the major character traits of the elderly—they are irascible. They know that their presence is not appreciated by those they have been taken in by, and so try as much as they can not to bother other members of the household. Nevertheless, they conceal the thought that they are being treated unjustly because they have spent their whole lives looking after their children, bringing them up well, and trying to make them happy. But, in return for all of their self-sacrifice, all they get is rejection. Actually, in one sense, they did these things thinking they would be an investment for their old age, when they would need to be looked after themselves by their children. But, the recompense they hoped for turned out quite different from what they expected. Therefore, they consider themselves to have been treated unjustly, and are easily offended.
As an outward expression of their discontent, they often speak with the insinuation that they are making the other people in the house uncomfortable. Most often, they cannot enjoy a pleasurable conversation with others because they find a hidden meaning in everything that is said, offering ambiguous responses to hide their resentment. They say reproachfully, “Don’t worry, I won’t be a burden.” When they are offered something to eat, they either refuse or take very little; at times, they think that the other people in the house are hiding food from them and they sneak food from the cupboard when no one is watching. Or, when someone offers them a room to relax in, they surprise everyone by saying, “There’s no need; I’ll just curl up at the end of the sofa.” They get angry about the slightest remark, collecting their things feigning to get ready to leave. But they have no other place to go. They behave in such a way only to make others feel sorry for them. Even when someone buys them a present they find something to take offense at. They think either that their present was cheap, or that it was a last minute effort when everyone else had been bought for.
When guests come to visit, they try to give the impression that their relatives do not want them in the house, and that they are being abused and are left uncared for. When they are asked how they are feeling, they will go on about how miserable they are. In this way, they think they will be pitied, garner sympathy and that people will take more interest in them. Then again, perhaps the guests may be impressed that what they are saying is true. This may anger the other members of the household who will then be even less inclined to look after their elderly relatives.
They Try to Get People to Take An Interest in Them
In a society of ignorance, the elderly, both men and women, attempt to make other people take an interest in them. The main reason for this is the corruptive influence of the society. In the societies in which people abide by the morality of ignorance, people consider the concept of love not in relation to faith or morality but in terms of what they can get out of it. This explains why the love and interest in others goes only so far. Therefore, those elderly who are no longer in a position to offer anything to anyone try various other means to get the love and attention they want. They do so not by acting in a way that would get others to love them, but through the inappropriate methods encouraged by the society of ignorance. But, these methods do not inspire love in others; on the contrary, their amoral efforts bring just the opposite results.
One of the means by which the elderly who live by the morality of ignorance aim to attract attention is to speak constantly about their health problems, telling others about how much pain they suffer, and how difficult their lives are. In this way, they hope to make others feel sorry for them. In their condition, they complain about their illnesses, because they do not trust in Allah, or give thanks. In order to move others with their stories, they stretch the truth. They think that, if they appear ill, they will gain more attention, and others will be more tolerant towards them. In fact, though their situation moves others to pity, it also makes them angry, because they know that these elderly persons are exaggerating. They know that the only thing they want is attention, and that, though they give it to them, it is still not enough. The elderly, who exhibit this morality of ignorance want all the time to be the center of attention.
For this reason, they at times sit in a corner pouting and refusing to eat or speak. They want someone to ask them what the matter is, but pretend not to want anyone’s attention. When asked, they say nothing is the matter, thus trying the patience of other people. Sometimes they will go to a remote corner of the house, and stay there for hours hoping to arouse the curiosity of others. They will sit with a handkerchief in their hands weeping, and when someone asks them what is wrong, they will sob and say they are lonely or that no one loves them. Then the others will say, “But we’re here,” and give them some love and attention.
If the elderly persons are not satisfied with any of this, they will try to express their concerns to the others. They will resort to innuendo, using catch-phrases popular in the society of ignorance. For example, if no one is showing them any interest, they will say such things as, “I’m not going to stay where I’m not wanted,” “If I had a place to go I wouldn’t be troubling you,” or “Send me to a nursing home, you’ll be happier.” They say these things only to get the others to take more interest in them.
However, if they used all the energy they spend using these tactics instead towards behaving properly, they would get the love and attention they desired. But, trying to get what they want by resorting to inappropriate methods which are not in compliance with the morality of the Qur’an will never allow them attain their wishes.
They Won’t Listen to Anyone
The elderly who live by the morality of ignorance share another interesting well-known characteristic—they won’t listen to anyone. No matter what the issue, they only want to do things in their own way. They never trust what another person says, and look for some evil intent in everything that said. For example, when they are told they should not eat a certain food because it is bad for their health, they think it a lie invented to keep them from eating it. For this reason, when one gives them advice, they don’t listen; they become angry, thinking that others want to refuse them a meal.
But, there are still more such examples; sometimes their behavior can reach the point where it becomes a concern. For example, they will want to treat their own health problems, and refuse to see a doctor. Or, they refuse to take medicine a doctor has prescribed for them, choosing instead some old remedy that are familiar with; or, they may make some concoction of their own. They trust their own knowledge and experience completely, believing that young know nothing
They Do Not Think About What They Are Doing
These elderly individuals live their entire lives distant from the morality of the religion; they hide behind their perception as old, trying to find some excuse to act thoughtlessly — another bad habit in the society of ignorance. They believe they can excuse their moral deficiency by their age. Whatever the case may be, the society of ignorance accepts these deficiencies as typical of some old people. They will try to pass over an elderly person’s eccentricities by saying, “Excuse him, he’s old; he doesn’t know what he is saying.” However, that elderly person is completely aware of what he has done, and has probably done it deliberately. When their personal interest is at stake, they understand all too well what is owed to them; they know when they are not getting their due, or when a mistake has been made not in their favor. In any case, much of their tactlessness is often deliberate.
They know very well when to use talk insinuatingly, and whom to say it to. They use these tactics at almost every chance they get. They know how to have a normal, straight-forward conversation, but rarely do so.
If they are asked for the reason for their sickness when they fall ill, they say things like “because I have not eaten meat for a long time,” “the room I slept in was cold” or “I get very tired,” thus hinting that someone else is to be blamed for being neglectful.
At times, they will pursue minor forms of revenge. For example, when guests come to visit, they will bring up a subject that will embarrass the other members of the house, will speak the most inappropriate things for all to hear, although they know that it will hurt the people around. Then, they will hide behind their age, pretending they did not know they had said anything unkind, and pass over the matter with an apology. But, they knew exactly what they were doing. They know that the best way for them to take revenge on someone who is angry with them is to humiliate that person with their lack of tact.
Their Attachment for This World
The majority of the elderly in a society of ignorance know well the helplessness and difficulty that old age brings but, in spite of their recognition of the fact, they do not take the lesson from it, and do not temper their attachment to the life of this world. Even though they have come so near to their death, they keep the thought far from their minds. They see their friends dying one after the other, but still act as if death will not come upon them. Rather, they save to secure their future. They fear some day having none to take care of them, or of running out of money, and therefore store food, clothing and funds. But, though they are afraid of finding themselves in dire circumstances, they never think about the Afterlife. They do not consider there to be any need to prepare for the world to come. However, a human being’s true existence is in the next world. That is the one he should prepare for. Allah relates us the following in the Qur’an:
The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The Hereafter is better for those who fear Allah. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-An‘am, 32)
Believers, who believe this truth with certainty, will experience old age in a very different way. They have already lived their lives in the hope of gaining Allah’s favor. The further time passes, the more eager they are to meet the Hereafter and, by the will of Allah, to live their lives in the eternity of Paradise. Due to their hopeful expectation, they are joyful, contented and morally upright. They do not cause problems for those around them; on the contrary, they help to solve those problems, telling others about the moral teachings of the Qur’an, and helping them attain the kind of character that will be pleasing to Allah. Even if they become physically feeble, they remain mentally active, and try to be of benefit to their community.
This moral uprightness gains for them great love and respect from their community. Because they teach moral rectitude to those around them, and are morally upright themselves, they are always treated with respect. In the Qur’an believers are enjoined to be respectful towards those who are advanced in years. In the Qur’an, Allah says:
Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him, and that you should show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say “Ugh!” to them out of irritation and do not be harsh with them but speak to them with gentleness and generosity. Take them under your wing, out of mercy, with due humility and say: “Lord, show mercy to them as they did in looking after me when I was small.” (Surat al-Isra’, 23-34)
We have instructed man to honor his parents … (Surat al-‘Ankabut, 8)
We have instructed man concerning his parents. Bearing him caused his mother great debility and the period of his weaning was two years: “Give thanks to Me and to your parents. I am your final destination.” (Surah Luqman, 14)
Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him. Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbors who are related to you and neighbors who are not related to you, and to companions and travelers and your slaves. Allah does not love anyone vain or boastful. (Surat an-Nisa’, 36)